The аnti-migration wave is getting louder in Serbia. Although, according to the latest report of the European Commission, Serbia received a positive evaluation when it comes to the regulation of the system of acceptance and management of the migrations, migrants are increasingly spoken about in a negative context – that they steal, rape and commit other crimes in Serbia. The dissatisfaction with their presence in Serbia has been argued in different ways – first, that they are granted financial assistance, houses and apartments are being bought for them and that get citizenships. A contentious issue is whether Serbia has really concluded an agreement with Austria for the return of migrants in our country. We have been investigating whether any of it – and what – is true.
Open intolerance towards the migrants residing in Serbia over the weekend was expressed by the members of the so-called “Narodna patrola”(People’s Patrol) threatening and recommending that “all subsequent nights they will be on the streets and that the migrants should stay away from our women, our children and our people.” While experts say that it is a manifestation of racism, it seems that the prosecution is responsive, because it ordered investigation into the facts and circumstances.
Besides the afore mentioned “patrol”, the anti-migration rhetoric is visibly present in certain political parties. The loudest are the “Dveri” (Doors) and “Dosta je bilo” (It was enough).
The leader of “Dveri” Boško Obradović, who was a guest in early February in the TV show “Utisak nedelje” (The impression of the week) spoke about the number of crimes in Serbia which, as he said, were commited by migrants. As he said, he would not “let himself to be so relaxed” concerning the migrants when one considers how much violence, burglary and attempted rape is present in Serbia, but also in Europe.
We asked him to provide us with data on the number of crimes committed by migrants in Serbia, but he told us that it is impossible to give factual data because “The Ministry of Interior has been hiding them.”
“There is only a variety of news from various Serbian cities, which were censored in the media. Repeatedly we have queried the Ministry of Interior, as well as the Serbian government on the deal with Austria, but there is no response to our MP questions”, said Obradovic for “Istinomer.”
Yet, the Ministry of Interior responded twice to the MP questions of “Dveri”.
During 2018, the Ministry of Interior in response to MP question of “Dveri” stated that “142 irregular migrants on the territories of Belgrade, Vranje, Valjevo, Novi Pazar, Sombor, Subotica, Kikinda, Sremska Mitrovica and other cities have committed 101 criminal acts. ”
From January to October 2019, on the territories of Vranje, Belgrade, Sabac, Novi Pazar, Sombor, Subotica, Kikinda, Sremska Mitrovica and other cities, 162 irregular migrants committed 113 crimes.
However, it has not been stated what categories those crimes fall into.
Otherwise, according to the National Statistical Office (NSO) in 2018 a total of 92,874 crimes were reported. Of this, 29,750 people were convicted.
So, only in 2018 there were more than 90,000 reported crimes, and the migrants, according to the Ministry of Interior, in that period, committed 101 crimes.
Bearing in mind that NSO has no data on the number of crimes that were committed from migrants, and thus, there is no data related to the crimes in question, we queried the Ministry of Interior. But we didn’t receive any answers.
So, analyzing the data below, we can not talk about the number of thefts and attempted rape, as well as other forms of violence by migrants.
Djurovic: Migrants one of the most peaceful populations
In Serbia, otherwise, according to the Center for protection and assistance to asylum seekers currently there are over 7,000 migrants. Radoš Đurović, the director of the Center, talking about the behavior of migrants, for Istinomer said that in terms of the total population of Serbia, the number of crimes they have committed was “insignificant.”
-Mainly these are clashes among themselves, or public order violations or shoplifting. More serious offenses have been very few. ‘Migrant’ is a very vague term and migrants do not have common features, except that they have left their homes. And I can say that they are one of the most peaceful populations – said Djurovic.
There had been clashes between migrants confirmed in the news headlines. Namely, in June last year a migrant from Afghanistan was killed in Karadjordjeva street. It has been confirmed that he was killed by his compatriot, who later was killed in retaliation.
“Nobody has been granted citizenship”
Since the beginning of the migrant crisis, more than a million people transited thorough Serbia. Namely, some of them remained in Serbia, and some were returned to Serbia from other countries.
In Serbia between 1 January 2018 to 25 November 2019 in accordance with the Agreement on Readmission with EU, 59 citizens of third states were returned, according to the data from the Ministry of Interior. In the same period, 11,663 foreign nationals have expressed their intention to apply for asylum while 210 people sought asylum.
“None of migrants from the areas of Africa, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria received citizenship of the Republic of Serbia”, says the Ministry of Interior.
However, we must remember that the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic has offered citizenship to the young painter, Farhad Nouri, the boy from Afghanistan and his family in August 2017, and they were awarded citizenships in April 2018.
The second querie of the Dveri movement concerned the number of migrants seeking asylum in Serbia in the period from 1 July 2011 to 31 December 2016, as well as the number of those who have been recognized the right to shelter or the right to subsidiary protection.
Subsidiary protection under the Law on Asylum and temporary protection, means “protection that the Republic of Serbia approves to a foreigner who in case of returning to the country of origin or the country of usual residence would be subjected to serious injustice and who cannot or because of that danger does not want to put himself or herself under the protection of that country “.
The total of 618 412 foreign nationals have requested or expressed an intention to seek asylum in the same period. Of that, the majority of Syrians – 316 224, then 171 867 citizens of Afghanistan and 79 165 Iraqis.
Refuge or subsidiary assistance from April 1, 2008 until the end of 2016 was granted to 88 people and out of that 41 received asylum within the scope of protection of refugees. The others were granted subsidiary protection.
The contested contract with Austria
Obradović in his previous speeches mentioned the agreement of Serbia with Austria, which refers specifically to the return of migrants to Serbia.
Although local authorities do not talk about such an agreement, the former minister of interior Herbert Kickl was clear in September 2019, when he was a guest in the TV show “In the center” of the Austrian public service broadcaster, said that made an agreement with Serbia under which migrants which didn’t receive asylum in Austria will be returned to Serbia. As he said, they tried to tighten “the control to distinguish whether the migrants have legal stay or not.”
— Лале (@_DeckoZaPrimer_) January 12, 2020
Kickl continues to argue that there is such an agreement, but adds he does not know what happened to that agreement after he left office.
“Now I can say the following: during the ministerial mandate I ordered to negotiate a deal with Serbia throughout which we agreed to manage jointly with the Center for returnees in that country. There we might send people who are not entitled to asylum, but these people cannot go back to their home countries because they refuse to accept them back, “said Kickl in an interview with the Austrian” Kleine Zeitung “.
Whether such an agreement exists or it is based on the Agreement of the State community of Serbia and Montenegro with Austria since 2003, about the “return and acceptance of persons with illegal residence”, remains on the level of speculation.
President Vucic also spoke about the number of migrants. He said in the end of October 2019 that Serbia “up to 2028 to 2030 will make zero migration balance.” That is, it will have an equal number of emigrants and immigrants.
After 2030 we will have a greater number of immigrants than emigrants, which is one of the things that can help the survival of Serbia, “Vucic said.
Pažljivo slušajte pic.twitter.com/qL9PaDQMvH
— Лале (@_DeckoZaPrimer_) January 12, 2020
Houses and apartments for migrants – lies?
In detention and asylum centers, which are 17 by number in Serbia, 4,427 migrants have been accommodated currently, out of which 807 are children. According to the data published on the official website of the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, most of them are coming from Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Bangladesh.
According to the European Commission’s Report in 2019, between 80 and 90 percent of migrants have been accommodated in the state centers. Serbia provides “significant scale of health services through their regular health service” and children are provided with suitable education.
Public attention has sparked stories that the state financially assists migrants who remained in Serbia, and that they buy houses and apartments for them.
Đurović shakes his head on such allegations. He points out that there are people who were granted asylum and are not placed in reception centers, thus they can apply for social care. But that does not necessarily mean they will get it.
The migrants are awarded aid, but the donor was mainly the European Union.
“EU through various projects has been helping the Republic of Serbia and providing humanitarian assistance to migrants, for their protection, and particularly to children, providing adequate housing and living conditions in the detention centers for asylum, including food, health care and education, assistance to local communities where migrants have been placed to strengthen social cohesion, helping the Republic of Serbia in border management and the fight against human trafficking as well as assistance for capacity building of the institutions of the Republic of Serbia involved in migration management, “as announced on the website euinfo.
So far, the EU has donated more than 98 million euros in direct aid, which went into the hands of state institutions, local governments, but also international civil society organizations as well as end users.